Life Munich 1997
posted by April 11 at 13:00 PMon
After I got my first book deal I took my mom to Europe.
Mom always loved the New Year’s Day Strauss concert broadcast every year from Vienna on PBS. We used to watch it together, and I was thrilled that I suddenly had the resources to take her, if not to the concert (tickets are impossible to get), then at least to Vienna.
We spent a few days in Zurich, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in Vienna, and then we took an overnight train to Munich. While in Munich my mother came down with what we thought was pneumonia. After a short visit to a hospital in Munich—which convinced mom that socialized medicine worked—she spent three days in bed in our hotel room, hoping she’d get better so we could enjoy the rest of our trip. She didn’t. She never really did, not completely. She later concluded that the “pneumonia” she came down with in Munich was actually the first signs of the pulmonary fibrosis that would eventually take her life.
Anyway, she took this picture from her bed in Munich. On the back she wrote, “Mom’s view of Munich, January 1997.”
The one story we liked to tell again and again about our trip to Europe was actually about something that happened before the trip: When I arrived at my mother’s house in McHenry, Illinois, the day before we were to leave I was shocked by the size of her bag. It was a rolling bag and it was… enormous. I could fit inside it. And it was heavy. I could barely lift it. Since I knew I would be carrying/rolling her bag through airports, train stations, hotel lobbies, and through tiny European towns, I felt I had a right to ask my mother to open her bag and show me what the hell all was taking to Europe. Inside her bag I found a two-pound bag of chocolate. My mother was taking chocolate—American chocolate—to Switzerland.
I assured mom that there was plenty of chocolate in Switzerland. She was unmoved. It was her bag and she was going to fill it with whatever she thought she might need—six pairs of shoes, three warm jackets, two rolls of toilet paper, two pounds of chocolate—and if I didn’t like it she could stay home. We carried that bag of chocolate across an ocean and through three countries and back home again. Unopened. Because there was chocolate in Switzerland—good chocolate, chocolate mom liked—and some pretty decent chocolate in Austria and Germany too.
Anyway, I’m off to mom’s wake. I’m bringing chocolate.